How to Impress an MBA Admissions Committee: Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.

Girl with backpack on campus

Most MBA applicants realize it takes more than just qualifications and credentials to get admitted to a top-tier business school. In fact, that’s just the beginning. With as many as a dozen eager candidates seeking each seat, admissions officers expect far more than a notable transcript, high test score and solid resume. They aim to admit those applicants who will benefit classmates, alumni, employers, society and the school itself and deny those who overstate, exaggerate or misrepresent themselves. So, when refining each aspect of your application, keep in mind there is a noticeable difference between trying to impress and impressing. As Yoda famously said, “Try not. Do, or do not, there is no try.”

When analyzing MBA applications, business school admissions officers have access to extensive data that influences their decisions. They review thousands of applications each year and they know how each admit subsequently performs in the classroom, interacts with fellow students, engages recruiters, and advances his or her career after graduation. So, with a bit of reverse engineering, adcoms can spot tell-tale signs in an application that help them predict the near- and long-term future of a candidate.

For example, let’s consider your professional profile. Each MBA applicant presents responsibilities, duties and results that business schools consider when reviewing and comparing applications. You can impress adcoms by revealing sincere confidence, significant competence and tangible impact. Or you can try to dazzle them with boasts, swagger and exaggeration about your career. You have these same two options – impress or just try to be impressive – when presenting your academic and personal profiles. Your choice here can make the difference between admission and rejection.

So, how can you become an MBA applicant who will truly impresses adcoms? First, dial down your ego. An extraordinary b-school candidacy is long on substance and short on arrogance. Yes, it’s important to be self-assured, but baseless bragging and obvious overstating will not produce the positive outcome you want.

Second, get an objective evaluation of your candidacy from admissions experts such as The MBA Exchange. Once you understand your actual competitiveness, you can take the right steps to strengthen it.

Finally, craft an authentic application that conveys your true strengths and mitigates your unavoidable vulnerabilities. Many MBA candidates can benefit by partnering with a trusted, well-informed admissions advisor who can and will tell you, before you submit your final application, whether you’re really impressive – or just trying to be.